Support for waste charges affirmed
Johnny Tam and Thomas Chan
Making people pay a levy on their trash has the support of half of Hongkongers, according to the findings of a Civic Party poll - the second survey in a month to arrive at a similar figure.
Of 1,533 Hongkongers questioned in the Civic Party poll late last month, 50 per cent backed the idea of user fees for waste disposal, while 22 per cent opposed it.
However, 42 per cent of those in favour said the fees should be paid by the commercial and industrial sectors rather than by households. A public consultation on the 'polluter pays' principle ends today.
Of those who backed a levy, one-third were willing to see households charged according to how much waste they dispose of, such as through the mandatory use of pre-paid rubbish bags. Fifteen per cent backed a proxy system, which would link the levy to an indirect indicator such as water consumption.
Last month, a similar survey conducted by Friends of the Earth found 51.7 per cent of 1,007 adults asked favoured paying for waste disposal according to volume.
Civic Party lawmaker Tanya Chan said many people supported charging only businesses for waste removal because they fear the fee may be too high. Two-thirds of those who backed a waste disposal fee said a threshold for waste volume should be set, below which disposal would be free.
Chan supported that idea, while cautioning that 'such an allowance should not be high and should gradually be cut to [the optimum] level'.
Seventy per cent supported channelling revenue from a waste levy into environmental protection work and education rather than the government's general revenues.
The Civic Party's Paul Zimmerman said the revenue should not only go towards the promotion of recycling but also to the establishment of a waste authority responsible for waste collection and enforcement of illegal waste disposal.
'All the money should go to a fund to take care of the waste in Hong Kong, and [to] an authority which is motivated and can operate efficiently to keep Hong Kong clean,' he said.
The public consultation on municipal solid waste charging, which ends today, was held by the Environmental Protection Department.
Meanwhile, 700 tonnes of household refuse was collected last year under a cash-rebate recycling scheme run at three public housing estates by local green group the Ever Green Association. Participants were given cash coupons for turning in recyclable rubbish such as paper, aluminium cans and plastic bottles, old electric appliances and clothing.
Kai Ming-wah, of the Ever Green Association, said financial incentives attract many participants and the scheme could be considered an alternative to the government's proposed household waste levy.
'Since we first started the scheme in 2007, it has seen an increase in both the number of participants and the amount of waste collected,' he said. 'We strongly encourage the government to allow more public housing estates to join the activity.'
The tonnage of household waste dumped in landfills every day in 2010, according to the Environmental Protection Department